The Republican National Convention formally ended last night with Donald Trump accepting the Republican Party’s nomination. During the convention NTUF was on the scene in Cleveland working to advance the movement for comprehensive tax reform while the speakers on stage made their cases for Donald Trump. Meanwhile, apart from tax reform and homeland security, many of Trump's policies have lacked specific details. According to NTUF’s line-by-line analysis of his agenda, 62% of the policies presented by the Republican nominee Donald Trump have an indeterminate and undeterminable cost due to a lack of specific, detailed policies.
Trump’s outsider status has shielded him from much of the criticism that politicians, like Hillary Clinton, have experienced because of perceived “inconsistent” political policies or votes. Trump has proposed a few policies which overall would reduce federal spending by $56 billion per year. However, there are several unscorable items on his agenda, namely the expansion of the military and replacing the Affordable Care Act, that could have significant cost. Elsewhere, he specifically calls for a tightening of America’s trade policies, a reform of the tax code, and an increase in homeland security spending by at least $38 billion over five years.
With the addition of Indiana Governor Mike Pence to the Republican ticket, the possibility of finding clear policies by which to fairly judge Trump’s platform becomes a little more possible. Trump naming former Congressman and current Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his Vice Presidential pick raises the question of how does Pence’s policy record complement and contrast to Trump’s platform?
Before becoming Indiana’s Governor in 2013, Pence served twelve years in the United States Congress representing Indiana’s 2nd Congressional district (2001-2003) and 6th Congressional district (2003-2013). NTUF’s unique BillTally project tracked the potential savings and costs of every bill Pence introduced or cosponsored in Congress. Over the course of Pence’s time in Congress, he proposed $71 billion in spending reductions per Congress while the average house Republican over the same time only proposed $22 billion in spending cuts. This is all despite proposing more spending bills than savings bills in his first four terms in Congress. It seems Pence became more fiscally conservative over time with his largest proposed savings of $264 billion coming in his last term in Congress.
|Net Cost of Legislation Sponsored or Cosponsored by Representative Mike Pence Vs. the Average House Republican (Dollar Figures in Millions)|
|Representative Pence||Average House Republican|
|Congress||# of Increase Bills||# of Decrease Bills||Cost of Increases||Cost of Decreases||Net Spending Agenda||Net Spending Agenda|
|Source: National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s BillTally Program.|
A deeper dive into the BillTally project’s findings reveals some of Pence’s specific policies that would have increased or decreased federal spending:
Defense and Foreign Policy: Since Mike Pence served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee for ten of his twelve years in Congress, it should be no surprise that many of his proposals related to foreign policy. Pence proposed spending $144 million over five years to improve national cyber-security, $1.9 billion to promote security and democracy in Afghanistan, $152 million over three years to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital by building the US embassy there, and proposed a couple million throughout his congressional career to promote democracy, human rights, and nonproliferation in places like Syria, Iran, and Vietnam. Pence also proposed some small savings by preventing aid to the Palestinian Authority, which would have saved $3 million, and preventing the United States from funding the United Nations population fund, which would have saved $37 million. Pence’s proposals reflect his desire for a strong and involved national defense, which compliments Trump’s foreign policy beliefs.
Budget and Taxes: Although Pence was never on the House Budget or Ways and Means committees, he still presented a few budget and tax reforms during his time in Congress. In the 112th Congress, Pence attempted to further limit discretionary spending in the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years by placing them under the 2012 discretionary spending cap, which would have saved $27 billion over two years. Additionally, in the 110th Congress, Pence attempted to enact a one-time, five percent across-the-board reduction in “non-defense, non-homeland security" spending, which would have saved $25 billion. In dealing with tax reform, Pence constantly attempted to enact the Fair Tax Act, which would have abolished the IRS, repealed the income tax, and enacted a national sales tax as the main form of federal revenue. This proposal would have saved $88 billion over five years. In 2010, Pence also came out in favor of a flat tax plan to reform and simplify the Code by consolidating all tax brackets into one flat rate with no deductions, which, while less sweeping than the FairTax proposal, is still a simpler plan than Trump's tax plan.
Social Policy: Pence has described himself as a social conservative which is reflected in his approach to policy, not only as Governor, but also as a Congressman. Pence consistently attempted to increase funding for research and treatment of post-abortion depression (costs $15 million over 5 years in 2009), decrease appropriations to Planned Parenthood (saves $73 billion over 5 years in 2011), and increase funding to prevent human trafficking (costs $682 million over 4 years in 2007).
It should be noted that Pence introduced 90 pieces of legislation and resolutions during his time in Congress and none of them became law.
When Pence transitioned to the Indiana’s Governorship in 2013, he brought these same policies with him to the state level and found more success. Pence lowered Indiana’s individual income tax by 5 percent from 3.4% to 3.23%, abolished Indiana’s estate tax and inheritance tax, lowered corporate tax rate from 6.5% in 2015 to eventually 4.9% by 2021, and left Indiana with a $210 million budget surplus at the end of 2015. Pence also promoted a balanced budget amendment for the state of Indiana, while also sticking with his traditional social policies with the enactment of the controversial Religious Freedom Act and pro-life, abortion regulations.
Although Trump and Pence stand in conflict on free trade, Pence bolsters Trump’s call for strengthening national security and increasing defense spending. Most importantly for taxpayers, Pence brings a record of supporting options to cut government spending and working toward a balanced budget, which are two policy areas where Trump has been generally vague. In his speeches and in the primary debates, Trump emphasized cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse” but that would do little to address the current $397 billion deficit. Perhaps Pence could persuade Trump to support specific budgetary measures, like the “Penny Plan,” to rein in federal spending.